You’ve probably heard the phrase “sitting is bad for you.” In fact, the act of sitting is not inherently problematic. The problem is with the amount we sit (too much!) and how we sit (poorly!) Sitting less is the obvious first place to start, but apart from that, how can you sit better? That’s the question I was forced to address when I was facing an imminent neck fusion operation a few years ago; a prospect that scared the life out of me and made me re-evaluate how I moved throughout the day. Sure, I was “active” in that I exercised everyday as a pilates teacher, but I wasn’t moving that much the rest of the time. And, as I found out (the hard way), it’s the rest of the time that really matters! One of the smallest changes you can make with the biggest impact on your health is changing how you sit. So, here are my top three tips to make sitting less damaging for your health, instantly, and without costing a packet!
1. Change the angle of your chair seat
Many chairs have downward-sloping seats for ease of stacking. Unfortunately, these downward-sloping seats also actively encourage slouching! Chair wedges are an inexpensive solution, instantly changing the chair seat into an upward-sloping angle and making slouching much more difficult. You could use a firmly rolled-up towel instead. Either way, once you’re using these bolsters, make sure not to lean against the back rest (it’s called a back rest for a reason!). This is hard so don’t expect to sit all day, every day, from day 1 without using the back rest! You need to build up your back/core muscles gradually – unless you want (more) back pain??!? Didn’t think so!
2. Bring the floor up to you
This seems like a small detail but it can make a world of a difference! If your feet can’t easily touch the floor when you’re sitting on your chair (without leaning against the back rest, remember!), then you need to bring the floor up to you! That just means putting something underneath your feet e.g. a box, yoga blocks, foam roller, small table or gym bag. Making this adjustment will make it a lot easier to sit up without slouching and takes loads of pressure off your lower back and neck. Another advantage is that you can use this prop to sit in various yoga-type positions e.g. ankles crossed, soles of the feet together. Congratulations, you’ve just made your own cheap-as-chips yoga chair!
3. Slide your head back towards your shoulders
I’m specifically saying “towards” your shoulders because, although the ideal scenario is to bring your ears directly over your shoulders (seen from the side), that position is sadly not accessible to most of us without forcing it (causing more pain and misalignment). So, although the goal is to eventually get the ears lined up directly over the shoulders, any improvement towards that end goal is progress and to applauded! One tip I use is to place the tip of my finger on my nose and imagine pushing my nose tip directly back towards the wall behind me. Remember to drop your chin slightly as you do so and you will probably feel a stretch in the back of your neck. Bingo! Don’t force the movement; it should be smooth and gentle. Yes, I know it sounds/looks weird but it works! Try to bring it into your everyday life e.g. every time you’re stopped at the red lights, waiting for the kettle to boil.
Looking back, that neck fusion operation scare was the wake-up call I needed to finally make changes to my everyday movements, including making these small changes to my sitting habits. Not only did I improve my whole body health, I avoided the dreaded operation and all the pain and stress associated with it. Not bad for three minor adjustments! The main takeaway? You might not be able to avoid sitting altogether, all the time, but you can always make it less damaging. Instantly. Why not start today?